Lent is less than a month away! Parishes are gearing up to provide more intense spiritual experience for their members and others.
This month’s Evangelization Exchange continues to explore missionary discipleship. My piece explores Catholics and the Bible; Fr. Ken Boyack’s reflections talk about how Catholics rank next to other religious groups in terms of spiritual involvement.
We also have some links that explore perseverance in ministry, increasing Sunday Mass attendance through particular strategies, and a report on caroling as an evangelizing technique by Emily Jackson of our PEM staff.
Finally, we have a link to our Webinar on Living the Eucharist as a Lenten renewal and evangelizing process. This past weekend I was invited to a parish near Dayton. On a snowy Saturday morning, I had over 50 people in a room training as group leaders for Living the Eucharist. There’s a lot of energy this year for Lent; let’s take advantage of it!
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP
This year, the essays in the Evangelization Exchange will focus on how we can help form Catholics as missionary disciples. This series, entitled “Catholics. Disciples. Missionaries.” will offer concrete examples of forming missionary disciples from various pastoral viewpoints, as well as an exploration of the theme in terms of Catholic evangelization and faith formation. Read past articles here.
by Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP
Revelation, the process by which God communicates with humankind, is one. It begins with creation itself, for nature speaks of God’s love and life.
It expands with the emergence of religion, and takes on particular force with the revelation made through the Jewish people which began 3,500 years ago. This Jewish revelation was brought to completion with the revelation that was Jesus Christ, God’s definitive Word spoken to humankind.
The Jewish Scriptures contain a record of God’s revelation through Jewish history; the Christian Scriptures contain a record of Jesus’ revelation to his first followers, through the Holy Spirit. Together, these compose the Christian and Catholic Bible.
These are simple concepts, but they are still hard for Catholics to absorb; they still remain quite uncomfortable with their bibles. Ask a Catholic to look up a passage; one usually receives a look of dread and confusion. “Where do I find that in the Bible?” they will ask. “Is it in the Old Testament or the New Testament?” It’s not hard to make Catholics feel lost when it comes to the Bible.
A friend of mine has spent a long time searching for a community of faith. He has gone to many different churches, with many different approaches to the Bible. Although he knows the Bible with a thoroughness that would make most other Christians blush, he nevertheless loves to tell the joke about the man who was looking for guidance in life. So he decides he will open his bible and follow whatever the first sentence he sees will tell him. He flips through the Bible and finds the phrase: “Judas went out and hanged himself.” Puzzled, he tries again, flipping through the pages. Now the chosen phrase reads: “Do and do likewise.” Confused even further, he tries again. This time he reads: “Do what you will do quickly.”
By Joe Paprocki – Copyright © 2006-2018 Loyola Press
Since buying a lake house in Wisconsin a year ago, my wife and I spend most weekends away from our home parish, Christ the King, in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. So, recently, when I attended Mass there, I was surprised that the crowd seemed bigger than usual. Sure enough, in the parish bulletin that week, the pastor, Fr. Larry Sullivan, wrote about what he was thankful for in 2017, and one of the top items was the increase in Mass attendance. Since this is one of the top issues of concern for all pastoral ministers and especially for those of us in catechetical ministry, I asked Fr. Larry to share his strategies, which he has graciously done.
First, a little background. The Archdiocese of Chicago is undergoing a re-structuring/renewal process called Renew My Church, which is requiring all parishes to work together in local groupings and eventually to emerge with plans for viability that may involve mergings or closures. Suffice it to say that all parishes are feeling pressure to prove their viability. Christ the King is not a huge parish and is grouped with another, much larger parish. While the parish school has sustained growth in recent years, overall Mass attendance has been in decline. Every October, parishes in Chicago are to count attendance at every Sunday Mass during the month and to submit their “October count” to the archdiocese-a number which will be crucial in evaluating viability.
By Fr. Kenneth Boyack, CSP
An article titled “2017 Update on Americans and Religion” by Frank Newport of Gallup, Inc. raises key questions about how we as Catholics are taking on the identity of missionary disciples as Pope Francis teaches in The Joy of the Gospel (see no. 120). Ponder the numbers below from Gallup.
Note that Catholics are in fourth place behind Mormons, Protestants, and Muslims as being “highly religious,” and Catholics have the highest percentage of “not religious” among these same three religious groups. What is occurring in Mormon communities of faith that enables 74% of their members to self-identify as highly religious and only 10% as not religious? What are some factors causing Catholics to be less highly religious and more not religious as we look at the poll results?
As a Church concerned about forming communities of missionary disciples, Catholics need to ask ourselves what the Spirit is calling us to be, and to do, to increase the number ofCatholics who self-identify as highly religious; to move those who are moderately religious into the highly religious category; and to engage in intentional outreach efforts to invite and welcome baptized Catholics who self-identify as not religious to join us around the Eucharistic table.
From January 11th
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018. Are you ready? Is your parish ready? We hope the presentation will give you inspiration for how Living the Eucharist can transform your parish this Lent.
Living the Eucharist has a number of resources to help your parish grow in faith and community:
- A small group process that enables adults to participate more fully in the upcoming Sunday Mass;
- A small group process that makes the Scripture and the Mass more meaningful for teens;
- A Family Activity Booklet that offers faith-filled and memorable experiences for both parents and children;
- A daily devotional that teaches about the Mass and offers illuminating reflections;
- Catechetical bulletin inserts that deepen the faith of the whole parish;
- Prayer cards that encourage Catholics to let the light of Christ shine.
By Emily Jackson
In one of my favorite Christmas movies, the title character joyfully proclaims that “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” This year I was able to experience that for myself while caroling with my parish in Washington, DC.
My husband and I are active in Young Adult ministry at our parish and helped plan our caroling outreach. We made up song booklets and reached out for information on homebound parishioners who we might be able to visit. To find our carolers, we recruited Young Adults and other parishioners at Mass. Many people we talked to were concerned that they were not cut out for caroling – or generally any public singing. We found though that when we all came together, everyone found their voices and the group sounded great. Especially when singing Good King Wenceslas! We were led by our pastor and everyone involved seemed to be moved by a rejoicing spirit.
While caroling we had many wonderful encounters – from listeners bringing us cookies, to a Presbyterian church inviting us in for a meal, to people waving at us from cars, and coming up to request songs. We even had someone ask if we were taking donations!
Working for PEM, I spend a lot of time thinking about ways for parishes to effectively evangelize and reach out in their communities. I wanted to make sure that we were able to welcome people in the neighborhood while caroling. I designed a small handout with the Christmas Mass times to which we tied candy canes and gave out to anyone who stopped to listen to us or who’s house we visited. I made up about forty cards ahead of time – but soon ran out of my premade cards! (Thankfully I had extra cards and candy canes on hand!)
Often as Catholics, we struggle with finding ways to evangelize within our own communities – to invite and welcome our neighbors. Caroling provided an easy and fun way to spread the Christmas spirit throughout our neighborhood, while also inviting people to visit our parish. While we have a long way till next Christmas, consider planning a caroling outreach in your parish next Advent or Christmas season!
By Sarah Garone – Busted Halo © 2018
When my husband and I converted from Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism nine years ago, I knew it was God’s voice calling us, and I wanted to obey him wholeheartedly. I had just one tiny request: Lord, could the church we go to have a really kick-butt music ministry? Coming from a background rich with musical worship experiences, and as a vocalist myself, this aspect of Mass was an important bridge from one era of my faith life to the next. God in his mercy graciously obliged. When we were confirmed nine years ago, my husband and I slid comfortably into our church’s vibrant music ministry.
As the years have gone by, however, this once-thriving ministry has seen many changes, and in the last couple of years has become a shadow of its former self. After our previous music minister moved away, things have never been quite the same. All but a handful of singers and instrumentalists have left, the sense of camaraderie previously so robust has dwindled, and parishioners have begun to speak up about the declining quality of music at Mass.
It’s tempting – so very tempting – to walk away myself. But I haven’t, and I won’t. I’m committing to stay the course, even though this ministry has hit a rough patch.